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Split in Three

a Drama
by Daryl Lisa Fazio

COMPANY : Aurora Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Aurora Theatre [WEBSITE]
ID# 5069

SHOWING : May 04, 2017 - May 28, 2017



This southern fried comic drama begins as the Supreme Court is forcing the last segregated school system in rural Mississippi to integrate. Two sisters, Nola and Nell, are caught in the middle of a national fervor as the deadline draws near. As if tensions aren’t high enough, their long-lost, Yankee half-sister arrives unexpectedly at their doorstep. As worlds collide, they find hope in the bond of sisterhood.

Director Justin Anderson
Clifford Barnhill Elijah Marcano
Nola Parsons Courtney Patterson
Penny Tompkins Falashay Pearson
Nola Parsons Cobb Rhyn Saver
Tucker "Tuck" Tackett Travis Smith
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A Calculated Split
by playgoer
Wednesday, May 10, 2017
A play about the last court-mandated school integration in Mississippi in 1969. Hmm... Let’s populate the cast with two white sisters, one on the conservative, religious, segregationist side and one on the liberal, integrationist side. To add spice, let’s add in a previously unknown half-sister who’s a half-black Yankee! We have to throw in a high school student too, to get a young person’s perspective, and why not throw in a love interest too, a police officer whose eyes can be opened to the possibilities of a harmonious future?

Yes, the cast and plot of Daryl Lisa Fazio’s "Split in Three" are very calculated. The characters tend to act as mouthpieces for their various viewpoints rather than as embodiments of actual people. Thus, we have a mousy milquetoast (half-sister Penny, played by Falashay Pearson) suddenly turn loud and strident without a whole lot of motivation. And when there’s an attempt at broadening a character’s emotional range, in having staid Nell (Rhyn Saver) dress up and attempt a booty call with her ex-husband, it comes across as something out of left field.

Jamie Bullins’ set shares the overall sensibility of trying to make things look like what they obviously aren’t. The shack-like house he has constructed has perfect right angles, sturdy floorboards, and strong hinges, with only Sarah Thomson’s scenic painting to give it a weathered look. A perfectly solid Ford pick-up in the up left corner of the stage is given the same sort of paint treatment, and the little piles of dirt around its wheels and around the pilings under the house look obviously stagey. Add in Courtney Patterson’s totally un-period rat’s nest of a white trash hairdo and it’s clear that factual accuracy has not been high on director Justin Anderson’s list of priorities.

Mr. Anderson’s blocking generally uses the stage well, but his blocking for neighbor boy Clifford (Elijah Marcano) is a bit puzzling. The boy bicycles by and drops in from time to time, but he occasionally seems to leave in random directions. Part of the problem is with the script, which has him appearing willy-nilly, but it makes him appear directionless.

The performances, however, are what redeem the production. Ms. Patterson and Travis Smith give the professional level of performance we have come to expect of them. Ms. Pearson and Mr. Marcano aren’t as seasoned as performers, but acquit themselves well. Best of all is Ms. Saver, whose expressive face and spot-on reactions do all they can to make her constructed character come to life.

There are a lot of scene changes in the show, and multiple instances of someone reading in the middle of a twilight yard. Kevin Frazier’s lighting design attempts to suggest the various times of day, but it’s a bit jarring in a twilight scene when the porch light is switched on and suddenly the entire yard is bathed in light. The sound design by Justin Anderson and Daniel Pope relies largely on music that is supposed to be emanating from a radio. It’s a bit jarring (if fairly impressive) when a scene starts and the music playing on the overall sound system suddenly switches to sound just from the portable radio onstage.

As for costumes (designed by Kendra Johnson) and props (designed by Trevor Carrier), I found they served the play and the characters well. I wonder, though, if someone intimately aware of 1969 styles would find the type of slip-ups that seem to plague this production. "Split in Three" is not bad, but it is so blatantly composed to bring up BIG ISSUES that it starts to become a tedious exercise that drags on the farther along it gets. Give credit to the actors in bringing as much life to the play as they do. But that’s about as far as the praise can go. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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